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Woodcraft of Harrisburg

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3831 Union Deposit Road
Harrisburg, PA 17109

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sunday 12 PM - 5 PM
monday 9 AM - 7 PM
tuesday 9 AM - 7 PM
wednesday 9 AM - 7 PM
thursday 9 AM - 9 PM
friday 9 AM - 7 PM
saturday 9 AM - 6 PM

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Dyes, Dye Stains, and Stains - What’s the Difference?

I’ve been experimenting with dyes and stains for a good while and I often get asked about the different options. Put simply, it comes down to how the wood is colored.

Dyes are a transparent liquid that does not obscure wood grain or figure. Dye Stains are solutions containing extremely small coloring particles. Both penetrate deep into the wood and color the wood fibers from within. Stains are heavily pigmented and, depending on the color and pigment concentration, tend to cover the grain and figure to a degree. Stains generally do not penetrate the wood. Another difference is the lightfastness, or ability to resist fading when exposed to light. Pigment based stains have a better lightfastness than dye stains, which are better than dyes. All choices can be mixed or thinned for additional colors.


TransTint, GF Dye Stain, and TransFast

Two popular products I use regularly are TransFast and TransTint dyes. TransFast is a power that is mixed with water and then applied by brush, rag, spray, or sponge. TransTint is a solvent- based solution that can be mixed with water, alcohol, non-oil based finishes, and even epoxy. Application options include wiping, brushing or spraying. When using either product with a water-based mix, a pre-grain raising is advisable by applying the dye with an abrasive pad like maroon Mirlon. Using an alcohol-based mix will keep grain raising to a minimum.


The author color testing on a project

Overall, both products have their benefits. I especially like the mixing versatility and application range of TransTint. When custom color matching an existing finish, I often use it as a toner- a transparent, lighter colored layer of finish applied over the top of a base coat.  

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